This post is Day 3 of the #21PostsInMay Challenge where I endeavor to post every single week day in the month of May.
I grew up with a lot of Japanese influences.
After all, my parents are from Taiwan, and their parents (my grandparents), grew up in a Taiwan that was occupied by Japan. In fact, my maternal grandparents felt much more comfortable speaking in Japanese. Even long after the war, they continued to speak to each other and to their kids (my parents, aunts, and uncles) in Japanese.
As a result, I grew up learning random Japanese words here and there. They were inserted into my already bilingual vocabulary seamlessly. Sometimes I didn't even know if a word was Japanese or Taiwanese.
Despite the strong Japanese influence on my family, one thing we never really adopted was sashimi, or raw fish. My mom didn't eat it, and thus we kids never grew up eating it. It wasn't until college when I spent a summer working in Japan that I finally learned to love and appreciate sushi.
So my family loves Japanese food, but even to this day, they still don't really eat that much raw fish. As a result, when my mom visited about a month ago, I suggested that we check out Ittoku, Boston's only real authentic Japanese izakaya. I thought it was the perfect place for my family. After all, it was a Japanese restaurant that served a lot of interesting and authentic Japanese dishes that were not sushi.
Ittoku is located in Brighton in an area of Boston that always makes us nervous because parking is difficult. Thankfully, Ittoku has solved this problem beautifully by offering $1 valet parking. It is extremely convenient and really takes out that barrier that often plagues restaurants in the Allston/Brighton area.
My mom and sister don't really like raw fish but still love a good maki or inari sushi. They were drawn to the Sukeroku on the menu, which included both a stuffed futomaki and inari sushi (vinegared rice stuffed inside of a sweet, marinated tofu skin). They thought these were "not bad", but I don't think they were blown away by it.
We ordered several other rolls, like the Spicy Eel Roll and my mom's favorite, the Soft Shell Crab Roll. Unfortunately, the feedback was the same for both of these maki sushi rolls. There was way too much sauce on everything, drowning out the flavors of the filling and overwhelming the sushi.
Bryan was there, and he insisted on trying some nigiri sushi, so he ordered (from left to right) Anago (salt water eel), Bluefin Tuna, and Toro (fatty tuna) as well as Uni (sea urchin - not pictured). He was pretty underwhelmed, saying that the sushi was very average. He also felt that the sauce on the anago was too sweet.
In general, sushi was not their strength.
The Tamagoyaki was solid, spongy, slightly sweet, and pretty satisfying to eat.
We tried a few grill items. The Sunagimo (gizzard) was chewy and only OK. I thought the Chicken Skin skewer would be crispy, but it was actually rubbery in texture. I did really enjoy the Mushrooms, which were fragrant, juicy, and just a bit smoky.
The Ika yaki, a broiled squid, was very flavorful and definitely one of the better items on the menu. The texture of the squid was good - not too over cooked - and the flavor was nice and smoky. In fact, I thought it tasted just fine on its own and didn't need the creamy sauce at all. In this case, I'm glad they left the sauce on the side.
I was so excited to see Age Takoyaki, or octopus balls, which are hard to find in Boston. Unfortunately, I found the sauce to be a bit too salty. It probably would have been better if I could have controlled how much sauce went on top.
One of their well-deserved signature items is the Omusoba, an egg omelet filled with yakisoba.
The noodles had a wonderful, chewy, "QQ" texture, and the yakisoba was actually well seasoned. It was another one of my favorite dishes of the night.
Another rare and very authentic item that they offer is the Okonomiyaki, a dish that, up until this point, I had only enjoyed in Japan. This was very good. The flavors were very authentic and totally reminded me of Japan. Even though I was already pretty full, I ate more than I had planned!
Bryan decided to order the Big Yaki Onigiri, which is essentially just a huge grilled rice ball. Despite its simplicity, this was fantastic and we all really enjoyed it. The toasted rice flavor really comes through, and I loved the crunchy exterior.
For dessert, we had a simple cream puff, which was enjoyable, but nothing particular out of the ordinary.
All in all, this places serves a much needed hole in the Boston dining scene. We need more authentic izakayas. I'm thrilled there's one that's not too far away that offers some great comfort foods (love the omusoba, okonomiyaki, and big yaki onigiri). True, some dishes are over sauced and over salted, and sushi is a weakness. There's no need to order sushi here, for there are many decent sushi restaurants in Boston. Instead, stick with the cooked stuff, the stuff you can't find anywhere else in Boston.
Prices are very reasonable, parking is easy, and the space is pretty big. I know it gets crowded on weekends, but on a weeknight, we had no problems making a reservation for a party of four at 7PM. The restaurant was only half filled.
I'm hoping that as the Boston restaurant scene develops, we'll continue to see more and more Japanese restaurants they focus on other aspects of Japanese cuisine, not just sushi! Thankfully, it's already starting, with a handful of different regional ramen restaurants, an authentic yakitori restaurant that stayed open for quite some time (RIP Yakitori Zai), and some shabu. Maybe we'll get our own soba restaurant, tempura place, or tonkatsu joint.
One can dream, can't she?